Dispute takes a different course for San Jose homeowners

Dispute takes a different course for San Jose homeowners
Lynne and David Robison are raising the level of their property by four feet and building a retaining way to prevent their backyard from flooding due to an insufficient drainage system installed by the neighboring San Jose Estates development.

After repeatedly asking developers Feras Mouded and James O’Nan to fix the faulty drainage system at San Jose Estates, which has caused soggy grass and standing water in their backyard for the past 18 months, Lynne and David Robison have decided to take matters into their own hands.

In a 24-page document entitled, “San Jose Estates: A Project that Never Ends,” David Robison outlined a solution he planned to immediately put into action to dry out his backyard and requested the amount of $35,000 from the owner of San Jose Estates to cover its costs. Included in the $35,000 are Robison’s work in devising the solution to the development’s drainage problem as well as the cost to repair to his property and his signed release to San Jose Estates of all liability to his property except for artesian-fed standing water.

The document was emailed July 5 to Mouded, San Jose Estates owner, and O’Nan, “coordinator of the entitlements of the project.” Mouded seeks to build a small subdivision, comprised of six parcels, bordering San Jose Boulevard.

“We could not wait any longer,” said Lynne Robison in a telephone interview. “This is absolutely ridiculous. We can’t use our yard because its soaking wet. I want to be able to enjoy my property, and he’s been taking that away from me for a year and a half. They haven’t put up any kind of fence or any kind of anything. They seem to be at a standstill, and at this point it looks like abandoned property,” she said.

When called by The Resident, Mouded said he had received Robison’s email but was “busy” and would not comment on whether he would accept Robison’s solution and pay him $35,000 to fix his backyard. When asked if his development was “sold out” as indicated in black paint on the onsite sign advertising San Jose Estates, Mouded said his development was “not sold out,” and that he was not aware that someone had painted on the sign, which advertises “luxury single family homes from the mid $400,000.”

“I wasn’t aware of it,” he said. “I will have to check that out.”

Kevin Conner’s backyard continues to be wet since the developer of San Jose Estates filled in the wetlands adjacent to his property more than a year ago.

Kevin Conner’s backyard continues to be wet since the developer of San Jose Estates filled in the wetlands adjacent to his property more than a year ago.

Formerly wetlands, the San Jose Estates property was purchased by Mouded, a Fort Caroline realtor, in April 2016. Mouded has since filled in his property with dirt and built a drainage system, which, in the view of Robison, a civil engineer, is insufficient to prevent standing water from invading his backyard and those of his Madrid Avenue neighbors, which abut the development.

In May, O’Nan sent an email to the six San Jose Estate abutters offering $250 cash as part of a “Neighborhood Fund” for each to use to fill and sod a portion of each backyard as compensation for damage done to their property due to the development of San Jose Estates. To receive the money all six homeowners were required to sign a receipt waiving and releasing “any and all current issues regarding the San Jose Estates development as well as any future issues of the same.” It was an offer Robison and his Madrid Avenue neighbors easily refused.

In an email dated July 5, Robison informed O’Nan that he had hired contractors to “rectify the ongoing wetness in my backyard. As we look at what is best for the neighborhood, it is clear that my contractors should go into your perforated drainage system, fix it, then link into it,” he wrote. “This would require your permission and your funding. This project has been going on for one and a half years. Enough.  I have attached a document that outlines what is wrong, what I am going to do, and how I can fix the whole thing.”

In his report, Robison said stagnant water in the backyards of the Madrid Avenue properties is caused by their location at the bottom of a hill “where water permeates into the soil at a much higher elevation.” Historically, ground water was able to flow from the San Jose Estate property when it was wetlands and had permeable soil. But when the developer compacted the porous soil with low permeability fill, it stopped the underground water flow, forcing water to the surface, Robison said. “That is what is keeping mine and my neighbors’ properties wet,” he wrote. “This upward water movement manifests itself as small artesian systems and is active in periods of moderate rain.”

To solve the problem, Robison is in the process of installing a four-foot retaining wall on the property line separating his property from San Jose Estates and filling his backyard with nearly three feet of gravel and stone as well as a foot of top soil. It is his plan that water from his property will flow through the gravel underneath the retaining wall into the entire length of perforated pipe, already installed by San Jose Estates, which would now be also surrounded by gravel.

“The retaining wall elevates our property grade high enough that even if there is a failure, the water will flow into Christopher Creek without reservoiring our properties,” he wrote.

As long as any standing water sits on the Madrid Avenue properties or in the San Jose Estates culverts, Robison said he and his neighbors plan to contest the issuance of permits Mouded needs to advance his development.

“I am spending money now so ‘damages’ are becoming real and quantified. Again enough. I implore you to work with us, so we can finish this off. We’ll get our properties back and San Jose Estates can get past this fill permit,” he wrote to O’Nan in the July 5 email.

As of press time, Robison said he had no response from the San Jose developers and is prepared take legal action against them to pay for the repairs to his property.

Robison’s closest Madrid Avenue neighbors, Kevin Conner and Harry Whittle, said they support Robison. Both said they have no plans at this time to hire contractors to raise up their backyards but will support any legal action Robison takes to receive compensation in his efforts to rectify the wet ground.

“I plan to move forward as a plaintiff with the Robisons, financially helping to cover the attorney fees and seeking damages,” said Conner in an email.

Whittle, whose yard sits lowest of all the abutters, said standing water is a constant in his backyard and water comes up to within an inch of invading his living room during moderate rainstorms.

“I don’t have the funds to fix it upfront like he (Robison) does, so I can’t build up my property,” Whittle said, noting his young grandchildren, who live with him, have a backyard swing set they no longer use because of the standing water. “Since they filled in the wetlands, our property in the back stays mushy all the time,” he said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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